"By authorizing offshore leasing for oil and gas exploration, South Carolina will lead a long, overdue effort to open up American-owned energy reserves," Graham said. "We want to break the dependence on imports from unstable areas like the Middle East and dangerous regimes like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. The more closer-to-home energy we utilize, the less we must rely on them."


Under his bill, no offshore drilling would be permitted in the band between 0 and 10 miles off South Carolina's coast. But the 10-to-50-mile band could be open to drilling, as long as it's approved by the state's governor and State Legislature. Drilling from 50 to 100 miles off the coast would be permitted.

Once the state approves a lease, it would petition the secretary of the Interior to include the lease in the federal government's five-year leasing plans.

Revenues from the lease would be split — 50 percent would go to the federal government for deficit reduction, 37.5 percent would go to South Carolina, and 12.5 percent would go toward the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Graham's bill is supported by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and Gov. Nikki Haley (R).